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A concerted effort to raise the state’s minimum wage kicked off Tuesday at City Hall where union workers and city politicians gathered to hear State Senator Jessica Ramos announce that she would be introducing legislation in Albany to raise the minimum wage to $21.25 an hour by 2026.
“We all know that inflation is through the roof but so are corporate profits,” Ramos said following the rally. “What's not though the roof is our wages. We haven't seen an increase since 2018.”
Ramos’ bill would raise the wage incrementally over the next several years until it reaches $21.25 in New York City and $20 elsewhere in the state in 2026. After that, the minimum wage would be linked directly to the rate of inflation, according to the bill.
Dozens of workers from several city unions including Teamsters’ locals, Construction & General Building Laborers' Local 79 and two Service Employees International Union locals joined Ramos on the City Hall steps.
“We want the urgency of the moment to be taken seriously,” Ramos, the Labor Committee chair, said. “We’re hoping that the minimum wage is raised as soon as we get into legislative session come January so that we can help more working families keep a roof over their heads and catch up on their bills.”
Echoes of ‘Fight for $15’
Local 79 and other unions present at the rally are all united under the Raise Up New York banner, a campaign organized by the Alliance for a Greater New York (ALIGN), an alliance of labor and community organizations and an architect of the “Fight for $15” campaign.
"The fact that we don’t have a high minimum wage in our city and our state is affecting everybody,” Maritza Silva-Farrell, ALIGN’s executive director, told The Chief following the event. She said that the coalition to launch the Raise Up New York campaign had been coming together since last year and also involved workers at Chipotle, restaurant servers and even some small business owners pushing for the increase in the minimum wage.
Ramos and Silva-Farrell chose Tuesday to host the announcement since it marked the 10-year anniversary of the beginning of the “Fight for $15” campaign. In 2016, then-Governor Andrew Cuomo signed legislation raising the minimum wage across New York gradually over the course of the following six years.
According to the legislation, the minimum wage reached $15 in the city in 2019, and on Long Island and in Westchester last year. In other areas of the state, the minimum wage will increase to $14.20 at the end of this year.
Comptroller Brad Lander, Public Advocate Jumaane Williams, Assembly Member Latoya Joyner and State Senator Jabari Brisport all spoke in support of Ramos’ bill. After the rally, supporters marched several blocks to a nearby Chipotle to highlight some of the workers who would be affected by the change.
With solid Democratic majorities in both legislative chambers, the bill could move quickly to Governor Kathy Hochul’s desk.
The governor’s support is crucial, however. Following the rally, Ramos said she had not touched base with Hochul since the midterms. But Silva-Farrell said ratifying the legislation would be a good look for Hochul since it would put the governor “on the right side of workers.
“Increasing the wage for workers across sectors whether they're unionized or non-unionized, it shows that she is a labor governor. "
Not all New Yorkers are in support of the change, however. In a statement, a spokesperson for The Business Council of New York State, Patrick Bailey, said the council was opposed.
“Small businesses, in particular, are already saddled with high unemployment taxes and other state-imposed mandates that, when faced with higher wage mandates on top of it all, force them to make tough decisions that often time result in staff reductions,” he said.
Still, Ramos remains confident that New Yorkers are supportive, noting that minimum-wage increases do well in public opinion polls. “Everybody agrees that New Yorkers need more disposable income,” she said.
Silva-Farrell was encouraged by organized labor’s support at the rally. “Although many of the unions today may have high wages because of their contracts, they are in solidarity with the workers who are not unionized yet,” she said. “At the end of the day, when some workers win better wages, others will as well.”
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